What can LARPs do to retain their players when gatherings are cancelled? That is the big question that LARPs are facing today. With COVID-19 impacting in-person meetings, LARPs find themselves in a large dilemma that could last anywhere from 10 to 18 months!
One of the first things your larp can do is to address the issue of cancelled games. Ensure the owner or operator is communicating what is going and that this situation is not the end. Reassure people that things will be better in the future and that gatherings will resume again as soon as the situation allows. People are frightened and lonely because of isolation, and this should be addressed as well. Show the players that you care about them and that you are willing to talk to and listen to people, even if it has nothing to do with LARP. Try to reach out to your LARP community to offer comfort and support in these trying times. If your LARP is for-profit business consider using the money you have made to give back in this time of need. Larps can do this by supporting members of their community in dire need of essential supplies. With a large number of people being laid off, now is when your communities need you most.
Use this downtime to improve the rules or lore of the LARP. Talk about adding new things content to the game such as races, skills, history, etc. Let the community have some control by holding writing contests and having a vote on content that will go through for the final review to be added to your game. In a world where it is easy to feel helpless and at the mercy of forces you cannot control, give your community something to focus on that keeps them connected and allows them to feel empowered. Be mindful though, having plots or storylines with disease or plague may be traumatic to some players. Be aware of the mental state of your playing cast so you can have a game that is fun and enjoyable for everyone.
Another powerful tool is to run events online, as they say, the show must go on. Services like Discord and Roll20 provide excellent systems that give your players a fun and engaging role-playing experience. Allow the players to shape their destiny through new media types. Explore digital ways of connecting. Something as simple as eating a meal together over the internet can help people feel connected and fulfill their social needs. Tara M. Clapper runs The Geek Initiative Larp where she LARPs online and helps other LARPs make the jump to online role play. Check her out at geekinitiative.com
Reach out to a person or two that is in the business of selling LARP equipment, they are hurting right now because they have no conventions or shows to go to sell their goods. See if you can help them promote their LARP product and try to work out a deal to buy and use their merchandise if they are willing to promote your LARP and come to events when LARP begins in-person events again. Offer to help them set up selling their LARP goods there. Remember we are all in this together and together we will get through this. Don’t get stuck in the mindset that this has to be a financial pause, use it as a fulcrum to leverage your future events!
Remember in these trying times people feel that isolated, LARP is an important tool to connect people together. Help people and we will get through this. So be kind, let’s build the community together.